Today's excerpt comes from "Leaders of the 19th Century" By Evelyn Harriet Walker © 1900
UNITED STATES SENATOR AND RAILROAD
"We do not believe there can be superfluous education. As a man cannot have too much wealth and intelligence, so he cannot be too highly educated."
'"*YT HAS been of late years a mat- *J ter of complaint, not always well grounded, that the United States Senate is being filled up with the possessors or representatives of great wealth. It is true that there are many millionaires in that body. It may be true that some of them have attained their positions merely because of their wealth. But there are some who began in the humblest walks of life and who attained their fortunes by hard work and unremitting labors for the development of the resources of the country. Reaching mature years, and becoming the Leland Stanford. possessors of vast wealth and the
controllers of enormous industrial interests, they are not the representatives of moneybags merely; they are types of that American pluck and enterprise and those traits of industry that have built up the greatness of the nation. As such, he would indeed be bold who would challenge their right to sit in the highest assembly of the country as representatives of the American people.
Leland Stanford, whose best known memorial is the Pacific Railroad, was born March 9, 1824, near Albany, N. Y. He was the son of a well-to-do farmer of good old Puritan ancestry, and led the life of a farmer's boy. He grew up sturdy, industrious and intelligent. After a few winters at the village school he went, at the age of seventeen, to Cazenovia Seminary, where Senator Hawley, Charles Dudley Warner, Bishop Andrews, Philip D. Armour, and other men prominent in American business and literature, received their early education. Here he was known as a careful, industrious student, with a faculty of taking pains, which has been said to be a mark of genius. Next he went to Albany and studied law, but after three years there went to the West. He stopped for a time in Chicago and might have settled there for good, but one day he was assailed by a perfect cloud of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, for which he had a special aversion, and that trifling circumstance impelled him to pack his trunk and leave the place at once. He next stopped at Fort Washington near Milwaukee, where he practiced law for three years and managed to save some $2,000, nearly all of which he invested in a library of law books. One night his office took fire, and with its contents was entirely destroyed, leaving him almost penniless. He sold out a little timber land which he had purchased, and managed to raise nearly $1,000. With that, in 1852, he set out for the Pacific coast.
His first settlement there was at Sacramento, where he opened a general store. Those were flush times in California, and within three years he had made more than $10,000. He kept on at the same business a while longer, steadily increasing his fortune, and in ten years was worth about $100,000. In 1861 he was chosen Governor of California, and then struck out for a wider field of activity. In his earlier years he had heard an Albany engineer talking about the feasibility of constructing a railroad in Oregon. Indeed, he had even hinted at the construction of a railroad line clear across the continent. Of course such schemes were then considered chimerical, but now that young Stanford was actually on the ground and appreciated the needs and the possibilities of the Pacific coast, he recalled these hints with interest.
His idea was to build a railroad from Sacramento over the Coast Range and Sierra Nevada mountains to the mining camps on the borders of Nevada. At that time the rates of freightage on all supplies for the camps were enormously high, and it was evident that if such a railroad could be built it would be exceedingly profitable. One engineer looked over the proposed route and said he thought the road could be built. Thereupon Mr. Stanford organized a company under the California State law, and with Messrs. Hunt- ington and Crocker went on horseback over the route. When they reached the top of the mountains they stopped, dismounted, and sat down to discuss the situation. At their feet was a precipice dropping perpendicularly down a quarter of a mile. The idea of building a railroad through such a region was startling; such a thing had never been attempted in the world. One of the little company said that they would have to build a derrick by which to lift the cars up to the top of the mountain, but Mr. Stanford was confident that although the difficulties were enormous the road could be built and operated successfully.
They returned to Sacramento and arranged for the construction of the road. As projected, the line was about 150 miles long. To build it, took the labor of 3,000 white men and 10,000 Chinamen for four years. Indeed, without "Chinese cheap labor" the road probably could not have been built at all. But it was finished, competed successfully with the mule teams and oxen that had formerly carried supplies to the camps, and soon became enormously profitable. With this done, the government was encouraged to go forward with its trans-continental railroad schemes. With these Mr. Stanford was conspicuously connected, and it was largely due to his energy, enterprise and enthusiasm that the stupendous task was carried to successful completion. He has also identified himself very largely with other railroad enterprises on the Pacific coast; he is an enormous land owner, and his wheat farms and vineyards are the pride of the State.
A few years ago Mr. Stanford's only child, Leland, a promising young man of eighteen years, died with Roman fever at Florence. This was a great shock to Mr. and Mrs. Stanford, and they determined to erect an unequaled memorial to their boy. With this purpose in view, Mr. Stanford called to his aid the best educators, and with characteristic energy completed plans for the "Leland Stanford, Jr., University," with an endowment of more than $20,000,000, in lands and other property, which has increased greatly in value within the last five years. This endowment includes the Vina ranch of 55,000 acres in Tehama county, on which is the largest vineyard in the world; the Girdly wheat ranch in Butte county, comprising 21,000 acres; and the Palo Alto ranch and stock farm of 7,200 acres. The total value of these three ranches is $5,300,000. He has made at Palo Alto, California, an institution for boys and girls which for literary and scientific learning is second to none in the world. It affords to its students every opportunity for learning the useful professions, businesses and trades of American life. Young men and women are there able to learn agriculture, mining, engineering, carpentry and building, the construction of machinery, or any other vocation for which nature has fitted him and to which his or her tastes attract them. To the development of this magnificent scheme of practical philanthropy Mr. Stanford dedicated the remainder of his life.
Another enterprise with which Mr. Stanford's name is inseparably connected is the invention and development of instantaneous photography, especially as applied to the picturing of men and animals in motion. The conventional pictures of horses galloping and trotting did not satisfy him: he was convinced that their attitudes as represented were unnatural and impossible. He therefore sent for a skilled practical photographer, gave him unlimited means with which to prosecute his experiments, and himself indicated the lines on which those experiments should be conducted. The results were astonishing and highly successful; not only were perfect photographic pictures secured of horses galloping and trotting at their utmost speed, but equally satisfactory pictures were produced of birds flying, of men running, leaping and wrestling, and even of a cannon ball in full flight, just as it was discharged from the mouth' of the cannon. These achievements have been of the highest value to painters and sculptors, and have almost revolutionized the art of illustration.
Mr. Stanford had little taste for public life. He was essentially a business man and developer of industrial resources. But he was persuaded, in 1861, to accept election as Governor of California, and served in that office with ability and distinction. In 1887 he w:as chosen a Senator of the United States, and in that office made his mark, not as an orator or debater, but as a careful, painstaking and accomplished committee-man; and it is in the committees that the most important work of Congress is accomplished.
He was a notable and much-observed figure on the floor of the Senate; a tall, well-proportioned man, with gray moustache and whiskers; a full round head, thickly thatched with gray hair; a strong nose; a large and finely developed forehead, and an expressive and masterful mouth. His whole air was that of a man of resolute action, able to undertake and execute great deeds and to impress his potent individuality upon all his associates. Despite his great wealth, his life was always a simple and unostentatious one. He was one of the most plainly dressed men in public life at Washington. His clothes were of plain black material, and jewelry was conspicuous by its absence from his person.
When in California the Senator spent nearly all his leisure at his country estate. His wife, who was Miss Lathrop, of Albany, is eminent for her practical charities. Senator Stanford's wealth at his death, June 2Oth, 1893, was estimated at $50.000.000, the most of which will go to the University at Mrs. Stanford's death. His wife, who was ever in sympathy with him, was made his executor.